Everton crashed out of the Carabao Cup following a disappointing quarter final defeat to Manchester United at Goodison Park.
Carlo Ancelotti made three changes to the side which picked up another impressive three points against Arsenal on Saturday, with Robin Olsen, Seamus Coleman and André Gomes all returning to The Toffees’ eleven. They and the eight others in blue were to struggle in the first twenty minutes, with United cruising for much of the game’s opening.
Good chances came and went for Edison Cavani, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba in that period as United pinned the hosts well back in their own half. Whilst Everton’s inability to keep control of the ball certainly helped the visitors, credit must be given to The Red Devils, who started the game with the same zip and urgency that had defined their superb victory against Leeds United on Sunday. It was much to Ancelotti’s relief that unlike Marcelo Bielsa’s men, Everton were able to just about hold on.
As the half wore on, Everton slowly worked their way back into the game. Glimpses of quality were shown on the counter attack, stemming from the unsurprising endeavours of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, but The Blues couldn’t quite find that final pass which could cause an imperious Harry Maguire any real problems. A freekick from Gylfi Sigurdsson, tipped comfortably by Dean Henderson over the crossbar, was the best ‘chance’ they could create.
But considering the difficulties they faced at the start of the game, Everton will have been pleased to have gone in at the break on level terms.
Half Time: Everton 0-0 Manchester United
A strong start by the home side to the second half was disrupted by the injury to Richarlison, who was brought down by a combination of Bruno Fernandes and Eric Bailly. On first viewing, the challenge appeared innocuous but replays suggest that Fernandes barged the Brazilian into the Ivorian centre back, leaving him in much discomfort.
This is not the first time Fernandes has made questionable challenges at Goodison Park, with the Portugal international lucky to escape a sending off in the league match between the two sides earlier in the season. Whilst a red card may have been harsh, it would certainly have been interesting to see what VAR would have made of the incident.
The lack of video technology was to bite The Blues again later in the second half. A tussle between Yerry Mina and Cavani on the halfway line saw the Colombian defender fall to the ground, with replays suggesting Cavani had grabbed his neck and pushed him to the floor. Again, whilst a sending off would have been perhaps a bit overboard, the absence of video technology to properly check the episode would have been of great frustration to the home side, as it could have given an Everton a man advantage with not much time left to play.
The Blues’ frustration over the lack of punishment for Cavani’s actions will have been amplified by the fact that the Uruguayan grabbed the crucial opener. With time running out in a half of little to no chances, Cavani breezed inwards from the right and unleashed a fierce shot past Olsen in the Everton goal, sending the United team and supporting staff into delirium. It was what the visitors probably deserved on the balance of play and with such few minutes remaining all but sealed their passage into the final four of the competition
To Everton’s credit, they responded pretty well to this gut-wrenching goal, earning a handful of corners as injury time beckoned. But once again, the inconsistencies of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s set-pieces were to rear their ugly face once again, with United fairly comfortable in the face of what the Icelandic midfielder had to offer.
It was in the aftermath of one of these moments that United clinched a second. Breaking with great speed, substitutes Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial combined to send the latter away and through on Olsen’s goal. There was only to be one winner, with the Frenchman finishing precisely to send United through to the semi-finals and Everton devastated that another chance to earn a first trophy since 1995 had gone up in smoke.
The reality of this game is that it was a bridge too far for Carlo Ancelotti’s makeshift side. They have done extremely well in the last seven days to take nine points from the fixtures they’ve faced but tonight was simply a game too many in the absence of Lucas Digne, Allan and James Rodríguez. It illustrates that whilst their work ethic cannot be questioned, the quality of the supporting cast at Everton is not quite up to scratch for where The Blues want to be and that this is very much a project which will take at least three transfer windows to get right.
Nevertheless, despite these mitigating factors, the disappointment of Everton leaving another cup competition at an early stage is still as intense as ever.
The Blues now head to Brammall Lane on Boxing Day to try and continue their positive league form. With Rodríguez set to return to the fold, Evertonians will be hopeful Ancelotti’s men will have slightly more creative flair at the weekend than they did tonight.
Full time: Everton 0-2 Manchester United